Sarah Ugibari has created an example of the first Ömie nioge (barkcloth) design ever produced. The sihoti’e (mud-dyed barkcloth) is contrasted upon the plain white barkcloth in strips representing orriseegé (’pathways’). Where orriseegé is most often used to provide a compositional framework for Ömie painting designs, here it is presented in its pure and original form. The sihoti’e also represents women’s menstrual blood relating to the Ömie creation story of the first man and woman, Mina and Suja. In the Sahuoté (Samorajé sub-clan) areas of A’bi and Budo (old villages), and Gorabuna and Birrojo this same sihoti’e design is known as adure’ti’e.
Sarah Ugibari has created the first part of the design of the modadai bird (swift). The cross design represents the two long tail-feathers of the modadai as it sits in the tree. This is an ancestral sihoti’e design (design of the mud) whose origins can be traced back to the Koruwo village area on the Managalasi plateau c.1880. ihoti’e (mud-dyed barkcloths) represent women’s menstrual blood, relating to the creation story of the first Ömie people, Mina and Suja.
Sarah Ugibari has created a design known as maijaro i’e hö’oje. The vertical lines, she explains, are the morning rays of the sun shining down onto the forest. This is an ancestral sihoti’e design (design of the mud) whose origins can be traced back to the Koruwo village area on the Managalasi plateau circa 1880. The design was sewn with a bat-wing bone needle and a river reed was shredded to create the sewing thread. This particular piece is the largest Sarah ever created of this design.
The Ömie creation story tells of how the very first sihoti’e nioge was created by Suja, the first Ömie woman and mother of the world, under instruction from Mina, the first Ömie man, after she experienced her first menstruation. Suja dyed the plain barkcloth in the volcanic clay at the River Uhojo at the base of the sacred Mount Obo. Suja wore the mud-dyed barkcloth during her menstruation and lived in seclusion in a small hut known as jé’o jarwé (also called ivi’ino’ové’tové) for its duration.
Ömie legend tells of how in the very beginning when the first ancestors emerged from Awai’i underground cave onto the surface of the earth, Ömie and Managalasi people were one tribe but later split into two tribes. This is why both Ömie and Managalasi people share many of the same ancient barkcoth designs, including sihoti’e.
It was extremely fortunate that Sarah married an Ömie man and moved to his village otherwise her important art may have been lost because in both of the Managalasi villages, Koruwo and Kiara, where she grew up, the missionaries collected all traditional cultural items including barkcloths, created piles and burnt everything. They also imposed a ban on traditional initiation, marriage and funeral ceremonies and the production of barkcloth. Sarah’s art has taught us that the historical cultural links between Ömie and Managalasi people is incredibly strong and that the practice of sihoti’e, as evidenced in the Ömie creation stories, is ancient.